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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-28

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

March 28, 1999


  • [01] Demonstrators pelt US embassy with eggs
  • [02] Cyprus agrees to represent Yugoslavia in UK
  • [03] Viewers flock to Greek TV to watch the war
  • [04] Cyprus excluded from UK pet passport scheme
  • [05] The six get ready for Europe
  • [06] Cracking gangland crime?
  • [07] Small bomb goes off in Limassol hotel
  • [08] Cyprus expects fall in Russian tourist arrivals

  • [01] Demonstrators pelt US embassy with eggs

    By Jean Christou

    SERBS and Cypriots rained eggs, tomatoes, paint bombs, rocks and Coca Cola at the American embassy in Nicosia yesterday to protest the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia.

    Around 1,000 men, women and children took part in the one-hour demonstration, the second to be held in Nicosia in as many days.

    Protestors carrying Yugoslav, Greek, Cypriot and Russian flags gathered at the Yugoslav embassy in Nicosia at around 11am and marched to the US embassy a three-minute walk away.

    Placards included "Adolf, Tony, Bill - Do you have a licence to Kill?", "Americans don't have a history of their own so they have to destroy ours", "NATO - North Atlantic Terrorist organisation".

    Gathering in front of the embassy, which was protected by barbed wire, the demonstrators were held back by a chain of police.

    Officials inside the embassy refused to accept a letter from a delegation of Yugoslavs and Cypriots, which included Diko deputy Marios Matsakis and anti-occupation organisation (Pak) president Aris Hadjipanayiotou.

    They the stuck the letter, which called on the US to stop the bombing and the killing of civilians, on the barbed wire outside the embassy.

    "We are here because their struggle is our struggle - to keep their country free," Hadjipanayiotou said. "We are against the US government's way of solving problems. This is not the way."

    The demonstration was noisy but not violent, although around three small scuffles broke out near the police line. They were quickly held in check.

    Protestors shouted slogans in Serbo-Croat, Greek and English, passed around cartons of eggs and bags of tomatoes and pelted the walls of the embassy.

    "Yankees go home from Yugoslavia," organisers shouted into loudspeakers.

    Rocks were also thrown, but they bounced off the bullet-proof glass on the embassy doors. A group of Serbian youths burned an American flag and threw the remains into the courtyard of the embassy.

    One shouted into the TV cameras: "I want to send a message to Russia and Orthodoxy. They have to say no now to Nato."

    Ivanka Stefani and Nada Jokic, both 32 and living in Cyprus for several years, were on the front line of the demonstration yesterday.

    "How can they say they are bombing military targets when really they are bombing hospitals and this is a fact," Stefani said. "How can England now be with Germany? How can they not support millions of Kurds and they support a few thousand Albanians?"

    Jokic said the Serbian people were not being 'forced' to back President Slobodan Milosevic. "We are not sheep," she said.

    Demonstrators began leave the area at around 1pm and police re-opened the road to traffic, despite a sit-down protest by a small group of Cypriots singing Greek songs.

    Some two to three thousand Yugoslavs live in Cyprus.

    March 28, 1999

    [02] Cyprus agrees to represent Yugoslavia in UK

    By Charlie Charalambous

    CYPRUS said yesterday it had unofficially agreed to represent Yugoslav interests in Britain through its High Commission in London.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides told journalists in Nicosia that Yugoslavia had sounded out the government - through its ambassador to Cyprus Ivan Mrkic - on whether it was prepared to represent it in the UK.

    Yugoslavia has broken diplomatic relations with Britain, America, France and Germany over Nato's massive air strikes on the country.

    Cassoulides said it was "ethically right" to assist Yugoslavia in its hour of need.

    Orthodox neighbour Greece is representing Yugoslav interests in Germany and Russia is doing likewise in France.

    Cyprus has traditionally stronger ties with Britain, which may explain why it has been approached by Yugoslavia for the London job.

    "When Yugoslavia submits an official request then we will respond positively," Cassoulides told reporters yesterday.

    However, he said that Yugoslavia had made no official request yet, though it seems that this request will come soon.

    The government had told Yugoslav officials during informal contacts that Cyprus would be "well disposed" to representing its interests in London, Cassoulides said.

    "If there is any problem with Yugoslav nationals, instead of it being dealt with by the Yugoslav embassy in London it will be done by our diplomatic mission. There is no other political dimension to this issue," Cassoulides said.

    "There should be no adverse reaction to such a move as it is within the framework of diplomatic protocol," he added.

    An overwhelming number of Cypriots oppose the Nato bombings and have strong sympathies with Yugoslavia.

    There are hundreds of Yugoslav offshore companies serving in Cyprus and an estimated 3,000 Yugoslav nationals living on the island.

    A majority of offshore companies were established in the early '90s during the UN embargo on Serbia and Montenegro.

    Although not openly condemning the Nato bombings, Cyprus has called for a political solution to be found with greater involvement from the UN.

    Cassoulides said that Nicosia was "not happy" with the Nato assaults.

    March 28, 1999

    [03] Viewers flock to Greek TV to watch the war

    By Charlie Charalambous

    LOCAL viewers are flocking to Greek public television channel ET1 as a valuable source of news on the Balkan crisis, according to a recent survey.

    The daily fare of dated documentaries and dour parliamentary coverage on the ET1 satellite link-up is usually only watched by what marketing men term an "obscure niche", which basically means nobody.

    As Cypriot tax payers footed the bill for the feed from the motherland, there had even been rumblings about whether we should pull the plug on ET1, but events have proved the doubters wrong.

    Since the Nato bombings over Belgrade, an event close to the hearts of fellow Orthodox Cypriots, ET1 has seen its ratings treble.

    Despite the efforts of local channels to beef up their Kosovo coverage, viewers are choosing the more experienced and reliable expertise of Greek TV.

    From its normal high of three per cent, ET1 is now attracting audiences of over 10 per cent on average throughout the day.

    But when the figures zoom in to the main news bulletin, the ratings reach 20 per cent.

    On the first night of the Nato air raids (Wednesday), some 10 per cent of local viewers tuned into ET1 and this figure rose to 11.4 per cent on Thursday, according to AGB TV ratings.

    The numbers are even more impressive when concentrated on prime-time news coverage between 9 and 12pm. On Wednesday, ET1's market share reached 20 per cent and levelled out to 16 per cent on Thursday (in spite of the fact that Sigma and CyBC were running CNN coverage on and off).

    With the station's extended one hour plus news format, and live links with reporters in Belgrade, Pristina, Washington, Aviano, Moscow, Brussels and London, local viewers are also watching for longer. The usual daily average of 20-odd minutes spent watching ET1 has soared to almost 60 minutes.

    And with Western correspondents expelled from Yugoslavia, Greek journalists are getting red carpet treatment in Belgrade, with live video links, satellite feeds and on-the-ground footage that CNN would kill for.

    And as ET1 scoops the viewers, local Cypriot stations have seen a drop in their average viewing share.

    Although ignored most of the time, it seems that in a time of crisis, Cypriots trust the friendly voice of ET1.

    March 28, 1999

    [04] Cyprus excluded from UK pet passport scheme

    By Jean Christou

    CYPRUS has been excluded from Britain's 'pet passport' scheme because of the continued presence of rabies in the occupied areas.

    The decision will prove frustrating for British pet lovers in Cyprus who have been active in the long campaign to put an end to quarantine in the UK.

    British servicemen and their families on the bases are among those who will be affected.

    "I'm sure it will be very disappointing for people here because they have to pay a lot if they want to take their pets home," said British bases spokesman Rob Need, himself a pet owner.

    He said taking pets back to the UK was a very personal decision for bases personnel, and that some people just couldn't afford it.

    To counteract the problem, he said the bases operated a rehoming centre for pets where personnel and their families could "adopt" a pet for a period of time.

    According to yesterday's Daily Telegraph, British Agriculture Minister Nick Brown described his government's high-tech pet passport system as "historic".

    The approval of the scheme marks the end of a five-year battle against the British quarantine system for pets, which meant returning Britons were forced either to leave pets behind or face the huge expense of a six-month quarantine period.

    Some 8,000 dogs and cats enter Britain each year, but this is now expected to rise to as many as 250,000 with the pet passport.

    Under the new scheme, animals will be implanted with an electronic microchip certifying that they have come from a rabies-free country and that they have been vaccinated against the disease.

    Veterinary Department officials were not available for comment yesterday, but Director Pavlos Economides said last week that there had been no reported incidence of rabies either here or in the occupied areas and that good co-operation between the two sides on animal control meant the UK had nothing to worry about.

    The countries which have been approved are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino.

    Pets from the Republic of Ireland will continue to be allowed unrestricted entry to Britain.

    A list of islands is also being investigated to see if they are still rabies-free but the measures still exclude most of the world including China and mainland Asia, North and South America and Africa.

    March 28, 1999

    [05] The six get ready for Europe

    By Hamza Hendawi

    ENCOURAGED BY the outcome of the EU Berlin summit, Cyprus and its five fellow fast-track European Union candidates yesterday served notice that they intend to submit "position papers" on all 30 chapters of the acquis communautaire by the end of the year in order to accelerate their membership negotiations.

    Concluding a two-day meeting in Limassol, chief accession negotiators from Cyprus, Estonia, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovenia said they were pleased with the outcome of the Berlin summit, particularly the adoption of Agenda 2000, which allows the group's enlargement to go ahead.

    "The (Berlin) agreement, as we understand it, created the conditions for enlargement," said Pavel Telicka, the Czech Republic's chief negotiator.

    "The message we are sending to the EU is that we understand it as a message of reassurance and we accept it," he told a news conference held jointly by the six chief negotiators at the Limassol hotel where they held their sixth meeting to date.

    European Union leaders wrapped up two years of negotiations on Friday with a complex agreement to overhaul the group's finances through to 2006 so that it can afford to open its doors to new members over the coming decade. But their determination to defend national interests produced a package that fell short of the sweeping spending overhaul originally foreseen in order to accommodate the new members.

    The EU opened formal membership negotiations almost a year ago with Cyprus and the six former communist countries on a fast track. Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovakia and Lithuania have also started membership talks but are likely to need more time to prepare their economies and political systems.

    The political compromise reached in Berlin over the 2000-2006 budget appears to have little chance of ending all the recurrent haggling over the thorny issue of who should pay for what within the EU - especially as it brings in more farm-intensive economies, such as that of Poland for example, from the former communist east.

    "Realising the need for an overall effort to speed up the accession negotiations, the six have decided to submit four position papers (on chapters of the acquis) by the end of May, an additional four by the end of July, and all the remaining before the end of November, 1999," the chief negotiators said in a communiqué issued at the end of their Limassol talks.

    "Thus, it is expected that by the end of the Portuguese Presidency (June 30, 2000), accession negotiations will have progressed on all chapters."

    Addressing the news conference, Cyprus' chief negotiator and former president George Vassiliou said that after the presentation of position papers on all 30 chapters of the acquis "the road to EU accession will be open and continues to be open without, we hope, any hurdles."

    Some of the six nations on the fast-track to EU accession have in the past criticised the EU for not setting target membership dates for individual candidates, arguing that such a move would help them schedule harmonisation and sell painful economic reforms to voters in their respective countries.

    But Vassiliou appeared not to share this view.

    "Certainly not," was his reply to a question on whether he saw the absence so far of any mention of firm dates as a sign of the EU's lack of wholehearted commitment to enlargement.

    "That was not expected from them at this stage. The (Berlin) summit had other priorities, and the most important priority was the Agenda 2000. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, the fact that they went further and once more confirmed their commitment for enlargement... is a real indication of their positive attitude."

    Poland's chief negotiator, Jan Kulakowski, said the six countries' plan to submit position papers on all 30 acquis chapters should not be directly linked to the setting of firm dates for membership, but added:

    "We hope, of course, that something could be said concerning the dates at the Helsinki meeting at the end of the Finnish Presidency."

    Finland takes over the rotating, six-month presidency of the EU in the second half of 1999. Germany is the current president.

    But Estonian chief negotiator Alar Streiman was more forceful when he took the floor to answer the same question. "We need some sort of schedule," he declared, adding that the former Soviet Baltic nation was prepared to respond to any fixed date set by the EU for membership.

    Telicka of the Czech Republic suggested that the EU Helsinki summit at the end of the Finnish Presidency next December might be too early for the group to set dates of membership, saying a few months later would be more realistic.

    March 28, 1999

    [06] Cracking gangland crime?

    By Martin Hellicar

    AFTER a number of years when securing a conviction for a gangland hit seemed a virtual impossibility, more recent evidence suggests police may finally be cracking organised crime.

    Last week's shocking murder of game service chief Savvas Savva in Limassol prompted local residents to take to the streets to protest at what they perceive as the rising tide of crime in their town.

    President Clerides, who went down to the city shortly after the daylight bomb attack on a busy main street, promised action to curb organised crime.

    "All measures will be taken to protect citizens from organised crime," he said. "Crime is not more out of control than it was in the past," Clerides added in an attempt to placate the concerns of residents.

    And a look at recent murder cases linked to organised crime would appear to bear out Clerides's optimism.

    Police have always had a high success rate when it comes to solving murders that come under the 'domestic', 'financially motivated', 'crimes of passion' or 'psycho' categories. But when it comes to gangland hits, police, by their own admission, do not always fare nearly so well.

    1995 was a bad year. A vicious turf war between rival underworld gangs vying for control of lucrative gambling, prostitution and drugs rackets claimed seven, or possibly eight lives.

    Six people were killed in what were clearly gangland hits, shot or blown apart by bombs. Another gangland figure was killed when a bomb he was working on exploded in his hands. The other death was that of a taxi driver with known links to the underworld. He died in a car crash just two weeks after surviving a botched bomb attack. His family claimed the crash was no accident.

    The underworld feud was centred in Limassol, where seven of the eight deaths occurred, earning the coastal town the unwanted title of crime capital of the island.

    Police appeared powerless to do anything about the bloodletting.

    The murder detection rate during this period was officially recorded at a measly 30 per cent.

    But 1995 would appear to have been the force's "darkest hour", with more recent records showing a marked improvement.

    CID chief Nathanail Papageorgiou told The Sunday Mail that the unsolved murders of 1995 were still a thorn in the force's side, but added that things were looking up.

    "When it comes to organised crime it is much more difficult to solve cases but we have more recently succeeded in solving such cases or at least getting them to the courts," Papageorgiou said.

    The turf war went relatively quiet in the 1996 and 1997, with only one hit, this time in Paralimni in September 1996 (the case has not been solved).

    The feud erupted again in July 1998, with the first of four hits in the last nine months.

    But this time, police have made arrests and are confident of securing convictions in all but one of these cases - as they are for the six other murders recorded since January 1, 1998.

    Police do not classify the killing of Savvas Savva as an underworld hit, even though an organised gang of ruthless poachers aiming to terrorise game wardens may have been linked to it. The motive for Tuesday's lethal bomb attack is thought to be revenge, the man arrested for the killing, 25-year- old Panagis Spyrou, being the cousin of a poacher shot dead by game wardens in November last year.

    The most recent gangland hit was the murder of 33-year-old George Ioannou, alias Koutsoudias, in January this year. Koutsoudias was gunned down as he left a Limassol cabaret with a stripper.

    Twenty-two-year-old Pavlos Hadjicostas is currently on trial for the killing.

    Ten days before Christmas 1998, gangland figure Hambis Aeroporos, 36, was shot dead in his car in the Ypsonas suburb of Limassol.

    His brother Andros, 32, had been the first murder victim of 1998, shot outside a Limassol cabaret in July. Both attacks are recorded as gangland hits.

    Five suspects are on trial for the Hambis Aeroporos murder, two policemen among them.

    The Andros Aeroporos case is the one murder since January 1998 for which police have made no arrests. But even in this case, police are confident that the existence of evidence that the same machine gun was used to kill both brothers may lead to Andros' case being solved.

    The other recent gangland victim was unemployed bouncer Marios Panayides. The 30-year-old was shot six times at a Limassol petrol station in September 1998. Three people are on trial for his murder.

    The other five killings during this period were of the non-gangland variety and police believe they have the culprits for all of them.

    Papageorgiou lamented the lack of progress on the 1995 killings, but added that fresh evidence had emerged which might shed light on cases once thought to be lost causes.

    "For this period (1995) unfortunately many cases remain unsolved, but we believe we now have a big chance to solve some of them as we recently secured new information and evidence," the CID chief said.

    He cited the ballistic evidence in the Hambis Aeroporos case as such evidence.

    Papageorgiou admitted there was still much room for improvement in the force's record in battling organised crime, and said the public's co- operation in the fight held the key.

    "We believe we can improve our detection rate. The police has a mission to prevent and solve crimes, but we need the help of the public."

    "People must tell us if they see something and must give us information," he said.

    "The police cannot be everywhere at once and cannot see everything. The public must not hesitate and need not be afraid of retributions - there are ways to give information without having one's identity revealed," Papageorgiou said.

    But there would appear to be little prospect of a positive response to the CID chief's pleas for public support. The apparent improvement in murder detection rates would not appear to have done anything for public confidence in the police.

    A recent survey showed rock-bottom public confidence in the force.

    The arrest of two policemen in connection with the Hambis Aeroporos murder has not helped. The poll showed the public view the police as a corrupt force tainted with the blood of organised crime.

    March 28, 1999

    [07] Small bomb goes off in Limassol hotel

    THERE was another bomb attack in Limassol yesterday morning, when a small home-made device went off outside a hotel in Yermasoyeia.

    The device, placed outside the Sun Smile hotel, only caused light damage to the entrance, shattering a few windows, police said.

    A police statement said the low intensity bomb, which was left near the hotel's storeroom, went off at around 2.30am. Nobody was injured in the blast.

    This explosion is being linked to an earlier car bomb attack against the owner of the hotel, George Mavromatis.

    Mavromatis had previously told police that he had no enemies or on-going business differences with anybody.

    March 28, 1999

    [08] Cyprus expects fall in Russian tourist arrivals

    CYPRUS will see a steep downturn in the number of Russian tourists visiting this year, but the arrivals picture is still rosy, Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday.

    Returning from a Moscow tourism fair, Rolandis said the bad news was that the number of Russian tourists to Cyprus would fall by 20 per cent this year compared to last.

    However, Rolandis was still upbeat, predicting that 1999 would be a bumper year with an expected record 2.4 million tourists due to spend a Cyprus holiday (seven per cent up on last year).

    The Russian market holds the third largest share - after Britain and Germany - of local tourism, with some 190,000 visiting last year.

    The sudden drop is being blamed on Russia's economic meltdown, but the minister said that Cyprus would be the least affected destination.

    On a cautious note, Rolandis warned that such favourable statistics could be thrown out of the window if the Yugoslav crisis continued, and worse, spread to neighbouring countries.

    During his contact with Russian officials, the Commerce and Tourism Minister secured an agreement that trade relations, already worth $400 million, should strengthen, especially in the fields of industry and high technology.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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